In this edition of our WeatherTech SportsCar Championship (WTSC) round table we take a look at the 12 Hours of Sebring. We talked to Bryan Sellers, driver of the No. 48 TOTAL Lubricants/UIS/Paul Miller Group Lamborghini Huracan GT3 and Eric Curran, driver of the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi and found out that Sebring can be quite mean to both drivers and equipment. But it’s also fun. Take a look…
Q: What challenges does a track like Sebring present?
Sellers - Sebring is a very unique track, it has so many different types of challenges. Some of which are very specific to Sebring, and some that you can encounter at other circuits. It is however the only place I know where you can have them all. The track is extremely bumpy, which places a premium on the compliance and ride control of the race car. The difficulty in this is that the track also has corners that you need a car that is stiffer and not necessarily ideal for the bumpy portions. There needs to be a lot of compromise to make the car good. The surfaces at Sebring are also difficult from a tire perspective. You have high grip asphalt sections and lower grip bumpy concrete sections. This makes it difficult to determine whether you need to chase track conditions or car changes.
Curran - Sebring is one of the hardest race tracks in North America. It’s extremely challenging and it’s also a very old surface, very bumpy. It was an airport some years ago and has never been resurfaced and some of the biggest teams in sports car racing come here to test because it really tests the durability, strength and chassis of your race car. It’s a very challenging track and in a lot of ways more difficult than the Daytona 24 but it’s half the length, 12 hours around here is very punishing on the driver and very punishing on the car. It’s a lot of work but very rewarding when you get it right. I happen to love this race track and I have done well here in the past, won some races. We have never won the Sebring 12 hours, so I’m really excited about coming with our Whelen Cadillac Dpi-V.R and I think we will be really strong with my season long teammate, Dane Cameron, and then having Mike Conway back with us for the endurance races. I think we have a really good shot of coming home with a victory.
Q: What is tire strategy like for a 12 hour race like Sebring?
Sellers - Sebring is generally very difficult on tires. The surface is rough and abrasive which creates a lot of degradation. Normally you take tires as frequently as possible while still making sure you have enough of your allotment left for the end of the race.
Curran - Well the tire strategy is challenging because we have been limited in some areas so we will more likely be making more stops but my best guess would be to run at least two to three stints on one set of tires would be my guess. It is important to really manage your Continental tires the best you can and be consistent on long runs.
Q: What is your most memorable moment from Sebring?
Sellers - My favorite memory of Sebring is actually prior to ever racing in the 12 hour. My Dad and I made a trip to Sebring when I was transitioning out of Karting into race cars for some meetings. We stayed to watch the race, and we were standing and watching when it went into dark and all the rotors were glowing and the tail pipes had flames coming out. My dad looked at me and said, "How cool would it be if you raced here on day"? I eventually got the opportunity to be in the race and I will never forget that moment.
Curran - That’s a funny story, going back to 2007 the first race I ever did for Sonny Whelen was at Sebring in a World Challenge event. I was running a red and white Whelen Corvette. At practice we had an engine fire and just about burnt the car to the ground and the guys worked day and night for two days to rebuild the car. They got it ready just in time for qualifying and I qualified second. The next day we went on to win the race, so that was a big win and very rewarding at the end of the day. So to go from a burnt up car to winning the race, it ranks as my most memorable moment at Sebring. That was the start of a 10 year relationship with Sonny Whelen and Whelen Engineering.
Q: What can fans expect to see at this year’s 12 Hours of Sebring?
Sellers - A good show! One thing about Sebring is the racing is always amazing. With all the new prototypes and the increase it GT3 cars this year will not disappoint.
Curran - I think going into 2017 its one of the most exciting seasons that IMSA’s had in a long time with all the new Dpi cars and all the P2-based platform cars. The cars are new looking, they go faster than they did last year, they sound good, and the fans are really excited about it. All the cars are the same basic platform with a carbon chassis and it’s just a new look, new face, faster cars that will be blasting around for 12 hours. This is a fan favorite, they always get a lot of fans that come out. It’s a big weekend, its super exciting and I recommend you come out for this race.